The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for their work on graphene, a material consisting of one-atom-thick sheets of carbon atoms in a hexagonal array. This is one of those prizes that was basically inevitable, as graphene is one of the hot materials of the last couple of years. Hardly a week goes by without a couple of press releases touting some amazing new potential application.
Joerg Heber has a nice explanation of the basics of graphene, including some cautionary notes about overhype. From an experimentalist’s perspective, the really cool thing about this prize is that the central experiment is so low-tech. Geim and Novoselov’s biggest discovery was that you can make graphene really easily by picking up tiny flakes of graphite (from pencil scribbles, say) with adhesive tape. You’ve got to like that kind of ingenuity, though it might be a little risky to let funding agencies know about this, particularly in the UK (“What do you mean, you need a billion pounds’ worth of apparatus? The last guys to win a Nobel here used Scotch tape!”).
From a Nobel-watching perspective, this is interesting for two reasons: First, it’s one of the quicker prizes in recent memory, coming just six years after the experiments in question (matching the 2001 prize for BEC). Second, it’s only split two ways, rather than the maximum possible three, allowing lots of room for people to speculate/pontificate about who should’ve gotten the third share. In a more light-hearted vein, Stefan notes that Geim had previously shared the Ig Nobel for experiments involving a levitating frog, which may make him the first to win both prizes, especially in that order
While Geim and Novoselov were nominated in last year’s betting pool, nobody put their names in to this year’s, so no guest posts yet this year.